From Nature to Art: Inspiring Students at Creative Vizcaya 2023

With support from the Janet Traeger Salz Charitable Trust, the second annual event, Creative Vizcaya, occurred in March 2023. Inspired by Vizcaya’s rich historic art collection, architecture, and design, Creative Vizcaya connects students with local artists to participate in art-making workshops. 

The program served 275 students from Booker T. Washington Senior High School, Everglades Preparatory Academy, G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School, South Miami Senior High School, and Hialeah Senior High School. Participants collaborated with four Master of Fine Arts students, Brandi Long, Mark Herrera, Jacob Stiltner, and Melina Tsalikis, from Florida International University’s College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts. 

The featured artists for this program included: 


Brandi Long

Brandi Long is a fiber artist and art educator from Miami, FL, and has an MFA from Florida International University. Long is best known for her fairytale-like sculptures incorporating all she takes from the natural world. Based out of Miami, Long looks to nature to inform her work. 

Students created a small embroidery on a recycled plastic bag drawing inspiration from the artists’ artwork and the landscape of Vizcaya and its surrounding area. These works will be collected to be a part of a larger-scale “plastic landscape, which long hopes to be displayed in an exhibit. 

Mark Herrera was born in Queens, NY, and attended Harding University, receiving a BA in Fine Arts and is currently an MFA graduate student at Florida International University. He is an abstract impressionist painter, sculptor, muralist, and performance painter. His focus is to capture the beauty and hope found in the human spirit that fights (and often fails) for harmony with its environment and community. 

Inspired by using limestone throughout the estate, students worked with clay and natural limestone rock to create impressions. Working with this new texture, students created a textured relief sculpture they then sculpted into. 


Jacob Stiltner is an American artist born and raised in Miami, Florida. Jacob recreates forms typically found in the home that reconnect to the human body and mind. Many of these pieces build on themes of health and relationships between our family and ourselves. He does this using drawing and painting. 

With Jacob, students explored the estate and identified the various patterns and textures in the Main House and Gardens. After, students replicated these patterns using pencil and watercolor. Once completed, they joined the pieces and created one large abstract, collaborative work. 

Melina Tsalikis was born in Miami, Florida. She earned her bachelor’s degree in art from Florida International University. Melina is now back at FIU, working hard to earn her MFA in Visual Arts. The aesthetics of her childhood inspires her work in the late 90s and early 2000s. 

Melina led a workshop inspired by the seashell design elements found around the grounds of Vizcaya. Students explored areas of the gardens and identified various seashell or mosaic patterns. They created their mosaic piece using natural materials and plaster. 


The artists used Vizcaya’s environmental and cultural resources as inspiration for crafting their workshop. Through this program, students explored various art concepts, such as watercolor painting, plaster and clay sculpture, and embroidery, to create three unique pieces. Split into small groups, students learned about the artist’s practice, saw how they were inspired by Vizcaya, and learned more about career opportunities in the arts. 

Relive the program through the photo gallery below. To learn more about upcoming programs for students and teachers, check out the website



Help Vizcaya continue to preserve its vast collection by making an online donation. 

Together, we can safeguard this rich cultural heritage for future generations to explore and appreciate.

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